So now its Brian Kellys turn to curl up by the fire in a gasoline suit.
Notre Dame turning to a Kelly: If thats not going all in on Irish luck to wake up the echoes and get the ghosts thinking right again, St. Patrick never scared a snake and James Joyce never penned a line worth reading.
In truth, Kelly will need all the luck he can get, because this is a job that triggers a flight response in even the most ambitious of men. Bob Stoops said no, no, a thousand times no. Urban Meyer turned thumbs down for the second time. Tony Dungy, one of the more wishfully thought of, said his interest was less than zero.
And so: Brian Kelly. Who comes to a place where three very different men have failed before him.
Who brings with him yet another fresh reputation as a man who gets things done in a hurry.
Who is no savior coach, because only a fool believes in such things anymore, and who may or may not be the right man for the job, because finding that man has been hard enough these past 13 years.
Buckle up, coach Kelly. Youll find your office down in steerage, just below the waterline. Mind the floating ice.
This is a bail job of major proportions – particularly with quaterback Jimmy Clausen and receiver Golden Tate opting out – and even if Kelly specializes in such resurrections, no résumé is safe after Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis.
On the one hand, the Irish get another guy who knows offense; under Kellys hand, unbeaten Cincinnati ranks sixth in the nation in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense.
On the other hand, offense is not the problem right now.
The problem is a defense that ranked 11 rungs below 2-10 Ball State and couldnt stop an offshore breeze, which meant Clausen and Co. took the field every Saturday knowing they had to outscore people to win. It hasnt been quite like that in Cincinnati – the Bearcats scored 39.83 points a game and gave up just 20.75 – but the Bearcats did surrender just 47 fewer yards a game than Notre Dame.
Then again, Kellys never been anywhere he hasnt made better.
It began for him at Grand Valley State in Division II, where the Lakers went 41-2 in his last three seasons. He resurrected a fallen Central Michigan program, winning the MAC championship in his third season. And 34 days after he was hired at Cincinnati in 2006, he coached the Bearcats to a bowl win over Western Michigan.
Hes the quicker picker-upper. Or something like that.
What remains to be seen is whether he can be that at Notre Dame, and recent history at the very least advises against an excess of optimism. Hacking through the philosophical knot in South Bend – Notre Dame aspires to be different from the Floridas and the Alabamas, yet doesnt aspire to be that different – has run the last three coaches out of town.
Kelly will face the same challenge, because a lowering of expectations (and admission standards) does not seem forthcoming.
On the other hand, Davie and Willingham and Weis have lowered expectations, to an extent. So if Kelly goes 10-2 and gets Notre Dame the occasional date with the BCS, that might be enough – might being the operative, and loaded, word.
Good luck, Coach. Heres hoping the suit doesnt fit.